Readers devour Hopkins regardless, but this is strong and worthy.

READ REVIEW

RUMBLE

Almost six months after his younger brother’s suicide, a high school senior slogs through tangled resentment and guilt.

Matt’s world has never been rich with happiness, what with his cold parents who retreat “to their separate alcohol-soaked / corners.” Dad bitterly rues the one-night stand that created Matt and forced the marriage; their house “is a sponge, / absorbing regret until it can hold / no more and disillusionment drips // through the bloated pores.” Now Matt shoulders his own crushing regret. Luke was three years younger—Matt should have protected him from the homophobic and religious bullies; he should have told adults how depressed Luke was, even sneaking Mom’s Prozac, which can be dangerous for teens. He definitely shouldn’t have been distracted by his girlfriend on Luke’s last, desperate day. Now that very girlfriend seems to be “trading [Matt] in // for Jesus.” The sturdy, fast-reading free-verse poems—which sometimes shift into elegance—give a heavy sense of Matt’s anger and discomfort, as well as how he vacillates between decency and churlishness. Themes of combat-induced PTSD, Christian fundamentalist bigotry, forgiveness, and foreshadowed violence integrate deftly. The climax surprises in the best way. Brief but explicit acknowledgement of the It Gets Better campaign (and why it didn’t help Luke) grounds the contemporary setting.

Readers devour Hopkins regardless, but this is strong and worthy. (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8284-5

Page Count: 560

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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A standing ovation.

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND

Tackles family secrets, toxic masculinity, and socio-economic differences with incisive clarity and candor.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and yearns to go to Columbia University in New York City, where her father works most of the year. Yahaira Rios, who lives in Morningside Heights, hasn’t spoken to her dad since the previous summer, when she found out he has another wife in the Dominican Republic. Their lives collide when this man, their dad, dies in an airplane crash with hundreds of other passengers heading to the island. Each protagonist grieves the tragic death of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept secret for almost 20 years. The author pays reverent tribute to the lives lost in a similar crash in 2001. The half sisters are vastly different—Yahaira is dark skinned, a chess champion who has a girlfriend; Camino is lighter skinned, a talented swimmer who helps her curandera aunt deliver neighborhood babies. Despite their differences, they slowly forge a tenuous bond. The book is told in alternating chapters with headings counting how many days have passed since the fateful event. Acevedo balances the two perspectives with ease, contrasting the girls’ environments and upbringings. Camino’s verses read like poetic prose, flowing and straightforward. Yahaira’s sections have more breaks and urgent, staccato beats. Every line is laced with betrayal and longing as the teens struggle with loving someone despite his imperfections.

A standing ovation. (Verse novel. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288276-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s...

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  • National Book Award Winner

THE POET X

Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.

Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance.

Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266280-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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